28 February 2015

What not to do whilst travelling (and a few hard-learned safety tips)

I was barely 20 years old, living on the other side of the globe to my family, knew maybe 6 people in London and had no real experience of the wider world. So when traveling solo to Prague, my first experience of 'European' Europe really seemed like a great idea, I somehow found myself on a plane flying towards a country I knew almost nothing about (bar living with two lovely, crazy Czech architecture students) for an 8-day holiday.

What not to do whilst travelling (and a few hard-learned safety tips)

If I met my younger self now, I would sit her down explain a plethora of things. I would point her towards the timeworn tips of a solo traveller blogger, tell her to patch together a Pinterest board and Tweet out the lessons learned - but back in the day we didn't quite have the same easy wealth of information at our fingertips (or social media addictions). Luckily, many years on I've learned a thing or two, so when TSB contacted me about working together to spill a few of the best safety tricks I've learned (many the hard way), I put fingers to keyboard.

Don't: Throw open a map picking a city simply based on how cheap the flights are and the beer varieties on offer (hey, I was young).
Do: Research how safe you'll generally be (especially solo women), know what acceptable local customs are such as how to dress and ensure that there is the possibility of central accommodation that doesn't have you walking around on your own late at night - then book the flights.

Don't: Realise on the tarmac during takeoff that you haven't researched Visas, let alone got one.
Do: Your homework! Luckily for me, the Czech Republic love Kiwis and I didn't need to have a specific visa prearranged. What a rookie mistake that could have been - I spent the flight duration rehearsing my explanation "Hi Dad, well, my trip to Prague went interestingly - it was a bit shorter than planned as they deported me, but the interrogation rooms in the airport were surprisingly nice..."

Don't: Wear a neon bumbag and carry an enormous guidebook around, stopping in the middle of the road, becoming a target for hustlers and pickpockets.
Do: Duck into a nearby cafe or quiet spot to check maps and guidebooks (any excuse for a coffee and slice), carry smaller books and I usually travel with a small, nice cross body bag that rests on my hip with good zips and hidden pockets for the items I can't bear to leave in the hotel safe.


What not to do whilst travelling (and a few hard-learned safety tips)

Don't: Flash your bling (OK, this is writers license, my friends will attest that I've never been bling-tastic but I've definitely seen other travelers do it) or wear 'holiday' garb. You know exactly what I mean - Hawaiian shirts, cargo trousers, awful hats and sky high heels.
Do: Try to fit in a little with the natives. Don't go stroll in safari casual down the Champs Elysee in Paris, don English footballs shirt if you've left the shores of Ole Blighty, wear Louboutin's to traipse around historic Roman ruin excavation sites and never, ever wear socks and sandals. I don't care where you're going, just don't. I've always found tidy casual will help you to blend into the crowds (in Prague the transport police often over check tourists' train tickets hoping to be able to fine them, but I've never been bothered due to my jeans, blouses and leather hobo bag).

Don't: Think that travel insurance is expensive.
Do: Realise that waking up in a foreign hospital can cost hundreds, even thousands of times more than that travel insurance you ignored.

Don't: Carry large amounts of cash with you, pulling out wads of foreign currency every time you pay for something.
Do: Keep just the money you'll need for the day in one pocket, the rest quietly in a hidden zipped pocket or better yet in the hotel safe. If you can avoid it, travel with a variety of payment methods too, just in case you're parted with your hard earned cash - credit cards, pre-loaded currency cards, travellers cheques (if they exist any more...)

What not to do whilst travelling (and a few hard-learned safety tips)
Frank Gehry's Fred & Ginger Building or,
how to make a feature of the complication of not spoiling someone elses view

They aren't any ground-breaking ideas, but lessons that make a lot of sense, now at least! I adored my trip to Prague, and need to revisit for another taste of their hospitality, hearty goulash, quirky buildings and refreshing brews. As first visits go, I was lucky enough to pick a good 'un!

Do you have any time-honoured tips?

TSB are a local ethical bank, and their mantra is to borrow well and be sensible with money. As such, their latest campaign is all about Current accounts where you get travel insurance (etc) thrown in as an extra. They kindly sponsored this post in order to keep our travel fund topped up for future fun and blog posts coming your way.

22 comments :

  1. There is some great advise here and all so true. I have seen many people on holiday stand out like eyesores and attract attention .

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  2. All very true. I was raised to always be careful all the time, really! Back in Portugal some people used to sew secret pockets into their clothing so that money wasn't visible hahahahah I don't like to carry a lot of money, period. I prefer to spend a bit more with my card. I pay by card where I can, but this means researching a card that doesn't charge loads of fees. I have 2 cards in different wallets in case I lose one, and yes it has happened! Leave the passport (or your ID) at the hotel so you don't miss it, carry a copy of it with you just in case. Be mindful where the consulate is in case you need it. I lost my ID in Germany so had to go to the consulate to ask for an emergency passport. Carry the numbers of your bank with you in case you get stolen and need to cancel your card.
    Avoid touristic traps like street performers. It's very easy for someone to try to pickpocket while you are distracted watching a street performer. I've seen it happen. I've also seen something in Spain that never disappeared from my mind. An old guy was waiting for more tourists to come around before throwing himself on the ground. Yes, it wasn't an accident. Meanwhile everyone was trying to help and there was some strange fellah walking around... I've pushed my parents away as it all seemed very suspicious. So mind the traps!

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  3. I wish the travel safety talk was part of high school... I know a girl who handed over her luggage (including handbag!!!) to a nice man who offered to carry it in the metro in Barcelona. Suffice to say he ran off with it...

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  4. Awesome tips Emma! So true about the travel insurance, when my other half suffered from the bends (decompression sickness) in Cyprus his medical costs were just over £100k! Suffice to say without the travel insurance we would be still washing dishes to this day...

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  5. These are some great tips. We all need little reminders of "common sense" things every now and then!

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  6. Avoiding the bumbag is always a good idea! ;) x

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  7. Hahahaha - Wear a neon bumbag and carry an enormous guidebook around,
    stopping in the middle of the road, becoming a target for hustlers and
    pickpockets - got me laughing hard.

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  8. I have genuinely seen it happen - I wish I hadn't!

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  9. They should be made illegal - there are some really nice ones that go under you clothes...!

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  10. What worries me are the people who haven't got common sense (I'm directly referring to a girl complaining in my hostel that there were no blankets supplied though it had said there were - she had been sleeping *on* the duvet the whole time, but had never had to turn her own bed down. d'oh!)

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  11. It needs to be compulsory - she (hopefully) wouldn't do it in her own country, right!?

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  12. It's certainly a worry - that is a whole lot a dishes!

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  13. Fabulous tips (I rather love the idea of sewing secret pockets - until I'd forget & run the clothing through a wash...!)
    Was it simple to get emergency ID once you found the consulate?

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  14. It's a worry, especially when they're young & female!

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  15. haahhahaha yes it was quite simple, just expensive. they gave me an emergency passport and I've also ordered my ID and had to wait for it.

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  16. Socks and sandals. Such a fashion statement to be Made when travelling

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  17. Wait... cargo pants, Louboutins and neon bumbags shouldn't be my go to holiday uniform? What If I wear big chunky socks with the Louboutins? Does that make it ok? And no one really minds if I stop right in the entrance to the museum to open up my map, do they? I'm just making friends! :D hehehe

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  18. Totally! I almost got caught out by not researching Turkish visas (I foolishly went by the old 'they let Aussies in everywhere' mantra and only realised when I arrived that I needed one. Lucky for me, back then you could purchase it at the airport but it was a tense few minutes before I discovered that!

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  19. Frankie, I reckon you could do anything you wanted, flash a wee smile and get away with it!

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  20. Oh, whew! I wonder how many genuinely confused tourists they get at the borders...!

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  21. Such great tips - especially about doing your homework re: safety, my sister had an awful experience when solo-travelling Greece with a stalker-type and I had a bad time in Rome when I hadn't realised inadvance that there would be a big protest that weekend.

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